The Use of ’s “The ’s Journey” in Harry Potter

Joseph Campbell is a mythologist who studied all of the great human and religious

tales. He realized, in studying these myths and tales, that there were certain steps that every hero

went through. He called this “The Hero’s Journey.” He first divided “The Hero’s Journey” into

three main parts: Departure (part I), (part II) and Return (part III) (Campbell ix).

Campbell then subdivided these three parts into a total of seventeen total steps. In the

Departure, there are five steps: 1) The Call to Adventure, 2) The Refusal of the Call, 3)

Supernatural Aid, 4) The Crossing of the First Threshold, and 5) The Belly of the Whale. In the

Initiation, there are six steps: 1) The Road of Trials, 2) The Meeting with the Goddess, 3)

Woman as the Temptress, 4) Atonement with the Father, 5) Apotheosis, and 6)

Boon. In the Return, there are another six steps: 1) Refusal of the Return, 2) The Magic Flight

(Campbell ix), 3) Rescue from Without, 4) The Crossing of the Return Threshold, 5) The Master

of Two Worlds, and 6) Freedom to Live (Campbell x). It is important to note that not all of these

individual steps are present in every hero’s tale, nor is it important that they be in this exact order


After Campbell studied a lot of the great myths and realized this pattern, he published his

findings in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949. Ever since then,

authors have used “The Hero’s Journey” as an outline to tell their stories. One of the best-known examples of “The Hero’s Journey” from contemporary popular culture is the Harry Potter book series, written by J.K. Rowling.

The Departure starts off with the Call to Adventure. As Campbell puts it, “[a] blunder— apparently the merest chance—reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual [the hero] is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood” (51). This blunder causes ripples, and the largest ripple is called the herald—the being that calls the hero to adventure

(Campbell 51). “But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration—a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand” (Campbell 51).

Next comes the hero’s Refusal of the Call. Sometimes, the hero’s culture teaches that adventuring beyond the known world is wrong (Campbell 59). “Some of the victims [those that refuse their call] remain spellbound forever (at least, so far as we are told), but others are destined to be saved [and eventually accept the call]” (Campbell 63). The fact that the hero may originally refuse the call does not mean that there will not be an adventure and that the hero won’t go on his or her . As Campbell writes, “Not all who hesitate are lost” (Campbell 64).

The Call to Adventure in the Harry Potter series is quite easy to point out. It occurs near of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The herald, Rubeus Hagrid, tells Harry that he’s a wizard and explains Harry’s past (Rowling Sorcerer’s 50). The Refusal of the Call is also quite obvious: “Hagrid looked at Harry with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes, but

Harry, instead of feeling pleased and proud, felt quite sure there had been a horrible mistake. A wizard? Him?” (Rowling Sorcerer’s 57).

Along the hero’s journey, the hero is given a Aid. Campbell puts it best:

“[The] first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass”

(69). This could take the form of an old wizard or just someone to be a friend to the hero who helps them through his or her quest. In Harry’s case, he has two Supernatural Aids: Hagrid and Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who becomes something of a father figure to Harry. Hagrid took Harry to get his wand, which is the major weapon that Harry uses in his fight against Voldemort, the supreme evil (Rowling Sorcerer’s 85). Dumbledore, on the other hand, mentors Harry through his fight against Voldemort. In addition, Dumbledore gives Harry the Cloak in Invisibility (Rowling Sorcerer’s 202), which later comes up in Harry’s Initiation as a part of the Ultimate Boon. We also find out that Harry and Voldemort’s wand have the same wand core: a phoenix feather from Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes (Rowling Goblet 697).

The next step in the hero’s journey is the Crossing of the First Threshold. The hero starts to adventure, but eventually gets to the edge of the known land and must travel out into . First, however, the hero must get past the threshold guardian into the land of the unknown, the land of power (Campbell 77). This threshold is usually the first real danger that the hero comes across.

The Crossing of the First Threshold occurs at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s

Stone. At the end of the first book, Harry encounters Voldemort for the second time, but it’s really the first time that any battle with Voldemort is explained in detail. Granted, up to this point, he has left the familiar life of Number Four, Privet Drive behind, but he’s still going to school, which he’s always done. This is the first time that Harry really gets to fight the supreme evil (Rowling Sorcerer’s 294).

After Crossing the First Threshold, the hero is thrown into the Belly of the Whale. “The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died” (Campbell 90). During this time where the hero is thought to be dead, the hero is actually waiting to be reborn, in a sense. After the hero’s first encounter with the forces of evil, he or she is now wiser, and knows more what to expect. The

Departure encases the hero’s leaving of the familiar and the hero’s first encounter with the forces of evil.

Harry’s Departure completes in the Belly of the Whale directly after his first battle with

Voldemort, when he wakes up in the Hospital Wing. In the Belly of the Whale, the hero is often thought to have died. Dumbledore admits that he thought he may have been too late in arriving to save Harry from Voldemort (Rowling Sorcerer’s 297). In addition to this, we learn that Harry has not completely defeated the ultimate evil (Rowling Sorcerer’s 298).

After the hero’s Departure comes the Initiation. This process starts with the Road of

Trials. This is mostly a series of troubles that the hero comes across that he or she deals with in the ultimate journey to defeat the forces of evil (Campbell 97). The next few books tell of

Harry’s Road of Trials. In book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry kills a giant snake that has been terrorizing the school (320) and defeats a younger version of

Voldemort that attempted to come back to life through the use of his old diary (322). In the next book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Voldemort’s faithful servant Peter Pettigrew, previously thought to be Harry’s friend Ron’s pet rat Scabbers, escapes (381). In addition to this,

Harry defeats a large amount of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures who defend the wizard prison

Azkaban (Rowling Prisoner 411), and saves his godfather, Sirius, who was wrongly accused of killing thirteen people (Rowling Prisoner 415).

The Road of Trials continues in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where Harry is thrown into the Triwizard Tournament, an ancient competition between three of Europe’s best magic schools, where he must complete three tasks. In the first task, Harry must obtain a golden dragon egg from a nesting mother (Rowling Goblet 356). In the second task, Harry has to save his friend Ron from the merpeople in the school lake (Rowling Goblet 505). The final task

involves traversing a maze and getting to the Triwizard Cup at the center in order to win the

tournament. Harry reaches the cup at the same time as another competitor from the same school,

and so they both touch it and are whisked away from the maze.

In a lot of the myths, the father-figure is seen as over-bearing and nightmarish. Campbell

writes, “[The] archetypal nightmare of the ogre father is made actual in the ordeals of primitive

initiation” (137). Therefore, this meeting with the father-figure is often another fight of the forces

of good and evil.

In Harry’s case, the Atonement with the Father occurs when Voldemort is resurrected,

with Pettigrew brewing a potion that grew Voldemort a body. Rowling writes:

The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry…and Harry

stared back into the face that had haunted his nightmares for three years. Whiter

than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was flat as a snake’s with

slits for nostrils….

Lord Voldemort had risen again. (Rowling Goblet 643)

After Voldemort is risen, Harry and Voldemort duel (Rowling Goblet 663). After Harry and

Voldemort fight, Harry just barely escapes back to the maze (Rowling Goblet 669).

Next in Harry’s journey comes his Apotheosis. In this step, the hero learns what he or she

must do to complete the adventure. With this knowledge, the hero doesn’t get the power to live

forever, but the hero knows what he has to do in order to be able to live forever (Campbell 167).

Harry’s Apotheosis happens in two parts. First, he learns of the prophecy concerning him

and Voldemort: The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…. Born to those

who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord

will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord known

not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the

other survives…. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born

as the seventh month dies. (Rowling Order 841)

In the next book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry learns that Voldemort has encased parts of his soul in objects and has spread them all over the country, and that, in order to defeat Voldemort once and for all, all of these objects, called Horcruxes, must be destroyed.

After Harry’s Apotheosis comes his Meeting with the Goddess. “The mythological figure of the Universal Mother imputes [represents] to the cosmos the feminine attributes of the first, nourishing, and protecting presence” (Campbell 113). This means that the hero often meets a woman that he falls in love with that will supposedly help him in his journey. In Harry’s case, the Goddess is Ron’s younger sister Ginny. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry realizes that he has feelings for Ginny (289). Eventually, Harry and Ginny do start dating

(Rowling Half 535).

The next step is called the Woman as the Temptress. This involves the goddess becoming something impure that wants to stop the hero in his quest (Campbell 123). She may be evil, and just want chaos to reign on the land. More likely, though, she will be a concerned sister or spouse that is really concerned with the hero not dying or being harmed in any way, shape or form. The latter is Harry’s experience with Ginny. At Dumbledore’s funeral in Harry Potter and the Half-

Blood Prince, Harry breaks up with Ginny so that Voldemort won’t go after her. Ginny, however, wants them to stay together. Rowling writes: [Harry said,] “Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to. He’s

already used you as bait once, and that was just because you’re my best friend’s

sister. Think how much danger you’ll be in if we keep this up. He’ll know, he’ll

find out. He’ll try and get to me through you.”

“What if I don’t care?” said Ginny fiercely.

“I care,” said Harry. “How do you think I’d feel if this was your

funeral…and it was my fault….”

She looked away from him, over the lake.

“I never really gave up on you,” she said. “Not really. I always

hoped…Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other

people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were

in the room, remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was

a bit more—myself.”

“Smart girl, that Hermione,” said Harry, trying to smile. “I just wish I’d

asked you sooner. We could’ve had ages…months…years maybe….”

“But you’ve been too busy saving the Wizarding world,” said Ginny, half

laughing. “Well…I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew this would happen in the end.

I knew you wouldn’t be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that’s

why I like you so much.” (Rowling Half 646-7)

So while Harry doesn’t fall for Ginny’s want to stay together despite the troubles, there is hope for them for the future.

After learning what must be done to live forever, the hero starts to work towards it.

Usually, this means acquiring some object. This object that lets the hero lives forever is called the Ultimate Boon (Campbell 176). “[The] boon is simply a symbol of life energy stepped down

to the requirements of a certain specific case” (Campbell 189).

In Harry Potter, the Ultimate Boon is actually in three parts—the Ultimate Boon is made

up of the three Deathly Hallows. The Hallows are three items that, if owned by a single person,

will make the owner conqueror of Death (Rowling Deathly 410). They are the Elder Wand, an

unbeatable wand, the Resurrection Stone, a stone that will bring shadows of loved ones back

from the nether, and the Cloak of Invisibility, which will render the wearer completely invisible

(Rowling Deathly 409).

Harry’s acquiring of the Hallows is a stretched-out process. He receives the Invisibility

Cloak from Dumbledore in his first year at Hogwarts (Rowling Sorcerer’s 202). The

Resurrection Stone Harry gets from Dumbledore through Dumbledore’s will (Rowling Deathly

126). However, it’s encased in the golden snitch, and it takes a while before Harry realizes that

it’s in there (Rowling Deathly 431). It takes longer still for Harry to actually get the Stone out of

the snitch (Rowling Deathly 698).

How Harry acquires the Elder Wand is a lot more complicated than either of other two.

The Elder Wand changes owners by whomever disarms the previous master (Rowling Deathly

412). Some people (incorrectly) believe that the ownership of the Elder Wand moves to whomever kills the previous owner. For example, one of the last owners of the Elder Wand was

Albus Dumbledore, who was killed by Severus Snape (Rowling Half 596). However, moments before Dumbledore is killed, Draco Malfoy disarms Dumbledore of the Elder Wand, and so becomes the proper owner (Rowling Half 584).

When Harry, Ron and Hermione are at Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly

Hallows, Harry is able to force Draco’s wand from his hands (474), and so becomes the master of the Elder Wand. However, Voldemort believes that whomever kills the previous owner is the

true master, and so he kills Snape (Rowling Deathly 656). Later, in the final battle between

Harry and Voldemort, Harry realizes that he was the master of the Elder Wand, and not

Voldemort (Rowling Deathly 743). And so, with the power of the Ultimate Boon with him,

Harry is able to defeat Voldemort once and for all.

The entire Initiation process takes care of the hero battling the forces of evil (but to no ultimate avail), and then finally learning what must be done to completely defeat the power of evil. After the Initiation comes the hero’s Return to the familiar world. This process might start with the hero’s Refusal to Return. The hero might not be sure on how to communicate what he learned in the unfamiliar world to the people back in the familiar world, back home (Campbell

193). Eventually, though, the hero realizes that he needs to return for the good of everyone.

In Harry’s case, the Return is defeating Voldemort once and for all, and returning to the world without Voldemort. However, he learns soon after Snape is killed that a part of

Voldemort’s soul actually resides in him and so, in order to fully defeat Voldemort, Harry must die—at Voldemort’s hand (Rowling Deathly 687). Harry’s Refusal of the Return occurs when he willingly goes to die at Voldemort’s hand (Rowling Deathly 704).

Eventually, the time will come when the hero will need to Cross the Return Threshold.

After realizing the broader world, this could be difficult for the hero. “The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world” (Campbell 226). In Harry’s case, the Crossing of the Return Threshold occurs after the dream sequence in King’s Cross with

Dumbledore, when Harry comes back from the dead (Rowling Deathly 724). Notice that this is not when the Return actually occurs—it is merely the beginning of the Return. After this, Harry must still fight Voldemort and defeat him once and for all. After Harry comes back from the dead, he plays dead until the right moment so that

Voldemort doesn’t actually kill him, and so needs some help. This is called the Rescue from

Without (Campbell 207). Voldemort still has one Horcrux: his snake, Nagini. Without Nagini

dead, Voldemort still cannot properly die. Therefore, the Rescue from Without occurs when

Neville beheads Nagini with the sword of Godric Gryffindor (Rowling Hallows 733).

Something that may happen next, especially if the Ultimate Boon was acquired against

the guardian’s will, is the Magical Flight. “[The] last stage of the mythological round becomes a

lively, often comical, pursuit” (Campbell 197). In Harry Potter, the Ultimate Boon overall was

not taken from the Boon’s guardian, if we take the guardian to be Dumbledore—he gave Harry

two of the three (the Invisibility Cloak [Rowling Sorcerer’s 202] and the Resurrection Stone

[Rowling Deathly 126]). However, the last Hallow, the Elder Wand, was taken by Voldemort

from Dumbledore’s grave (Rowling Deathly 501).

Voldemort then becomes the guardian of the Elder Wand. With Harry actually being the

master of the Elder Wand, he most certainly acquired it against the guardian’s (Voldemort’s) will. Therefore, after Nagini is killed by Neville and Harry shows that he is still alive, Harry and

Voldemort fight, with Harry triumphing and leaving Voldemort dead, his killing curse rebounded

(Rowling Deathly 743).

Having successfully completing his adventure, the hero is now the Master of the Two

Worlds. “Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the casual deep and back—not contaminating the principles of the one by virtue of the other—is the talent of the master” (Campbell 229). Harry, being the proper master of all three of the Deathly Hallows, is master over death—Voldemort’s entire goal. He can do what he wants with the Hallows. He decides to leave the Resurrection Stone in the Forbidden Forest, where he dropped it (Rowling Hallows 703), and to put the Elder Wand back into Dumbledore’s tomb. The Invisibility Cloak he’s going to keep, because he’s had it for so long, and he sees no reason to get rid of it (Rowling Hallows 749). After making this decision,

Harry says, “I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime” (qtd. in Rowling Hallows 749).

In addition to being the Master of the Two Worlds, the hero, having defeated the evil that has plagued the land, has the Freedom to Live as he chooses (Campbell 243). For Harry, this means marrying Ginny Weasley, and having three children: James, Albus Severus, and Lily

(Rowling Hallows 753).

Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” has given many storytellers a framework for their stories ever since first recognizing the pattern. One of these storytellers who took advantage of this knowledge was J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter books. Through the use of “The

Hero’s Journey, Rowling was able to tell a story that has defined a generation and will be remembered for quite some time. As Alan Rickman (Severus Snape in the movies) put so well,

“When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ And I will say, ‘Always’” (deanhasthetardis).

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. 2nd ed. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton

University Press, 1973. Print. deanhasthetardis. “alan rickman, always, harry potter, severus snape.” Image. Fanvim.com. N.p.,

25 Dec 2011. Web. 23 April 2012.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 1999. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 2007. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York City, New York: Arthur A. Levine

Books, 2000. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 2005. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 2003. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 1999. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York City, New York: Arthur A.

Levine Books, 1997. Print.

Vogler, Christopher. “A Practical Guide to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand

Faces.” TheWriter’sJourney.com. N.p. 1985. Web. 19 Mar 2012.